Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Champagne and tasty nibbles straight from the Aga makes for an hour of genial social intercourse in the company of Mrs Moneypenny, one time investment banker and now renowned Financial Times columnist.
I’ve a bit of mischievous streak in me, so I turn up at the ultra-posh Aga Centre in my jeans and trainers for what is billed as a champagne and nibbles event “At Home with Mrs Moneypenny”. But where to leave the damn bike? Seems that upmarket oven suppliers don’t hold with bike stands. No problem if you happened to be driving a monster 4×4 or sleek gas guzzler – simply jam it on the nearest parking meter or yellow line it and get one of those awfully nice Aga assistants to watch out for the Edinburgh mafia.
And getting a ticket for this shindig was like looking for the proverbial hen’s tooth. It took four visits to the Assembly box office, several texts and a few phone calls before the pass to the inner sanctum of 51 Frederick Street was secured.
Sliding my way past the free champagne (don’t drink and bike as wobbling under the influence on Edinburgh’s jam-packed roads is a complete no-no), I did my usual survey of the punters. This lot is definitely country set with a splash of financiers thrown in, at least judging by the litany of up-market carrier bags on cashmere clad arms.
Down to business. Mrs Moneypenny is a widely read Financial Times columnist and, having been a regular Fringe goer for years, has finally decided to have a go herself. Spotting the opportunity of a free holiday and a chance to explore somewhere north of Watford, the family has tagged along.
Mrs M has a degree, an MBA, a PhD, delivers lectures in Structured Finance, runs a successful business, writes under various names and still manages to deal with her three children, or “Cost Centres” as she now calls them. She is also a former high flying investment banker, although these days she does high flying of a different kind as she qualified as a pilot last year and now flies herself everywhere in her own plane. Oh, and she is married to a wine merchant who spends a lot of time persuading a little white ball to enter a very small hole in the middle of a large expanse of greenery. He’s given this event a wide berth and was apparently battling the links at North Berwick.
First rule of this sort of event is check out the audience before launching forth. Turns out that half of us are regular FT readers and have had more than a passing acquaintance with matters financial, her forte and on which most of her talk is based. Good start. But the other half had simply come in because it’s a nice shop, there was free champagne and the prospect of some nibbles later. Never, mind, they were well dressed and August is a quiet month in the Aga business so what the heck.
The hour that followed took the form of an extemporised cooking demonstration mixed with a few gently amusing anecdotes about life as a working mother, bankers, hedge funds, the economy and the role of women in business. And Mrs M is clearly a woman of substance as well. She’s on first name terms with most of those running companies in the FTSE 100, with those responsible for running oft derided hedge funds and almost anyone who is anyone in investment banking.
The time passes easily as she gradually finds her feet with the audience and gets into her stride. She does a nice line in self-deprecation, irony, satire and patter as she gently parodies her upper class set almost, I suspect, without realising what she is doing. And she’s got just about the most sympathetic listeners you could imagine – well bred, cerebral, polite and easily entertained, so the laughter flows like the champagne and everyone remains fully engaged.
She has clearly pitched this “at home” very carefully at what is essentially a niche segment of the Fringe market. I lost count of the number of hands that shot up when she asked who was here from Morningside (posh part of Edinburgh to those of you reading this from afar) but this material wouldn’t last five minutes if it was exposed to a mainstream audience.
And that’s where my sense of mischief got the better of me again. Buttonholing Mrs M afterwards as she signed copies of her latest book, I suggested that she might like to see a different side of Scotland to that of Stockbridge and the Highland shooting lodge to which she and family are repairing after this sojourn. “Take yourself and the Cost Centres to see The Moira Monologues”, I intoned, advising her that I had seen a good review of this on the FringeReview site.
Now there’s an idea for 2011. Mrs M “at home” with Moira Bell, the feisty lassie fay Falkirk that likes nothing more than a bevvy and a bit of good weed. They’d be queuing down the Royal Mile to buy tickets for that one.